Year of the Master Craftsperson and QEST

Launched by DBR in July 2023, The Year of the Master Craftsperson is an awareness-raising campaign that aims to encourage more young people into conservation construction, whilst fanfaring current practitioners.   Bringing the industry together, its main goal is to protect and preserve heritage craft skills to maintain the knowledge and expertise handed down by master stonemasons, joiners, leadworks, ironmongers, conservators, and more over generations.  

Why The Year of the Master Craftsperson? 

The UK construction industry is currently facing the most acute skills shortage in its history, particularly for conservation and heritage restoration work. 

Over the past two decades, the number of young British people entering traditional craft trades such as stonemasonry, joinery, and leadwork has declined. This has been further exacerbated by the recently restricted access to talent from abroad due to Brexit and COVID, making the situation acute.  

Something needs to be done to plug this widening gap or else we risk irreparable damage to the nation’s rich, unique historic fabric and losing the ability to preserve them, forever. Unfortunately, skills extinction is a very real threat.  

Since our foundation over 30 years ago, we’ve been at the forefront of the UK’s built heritage conservation. Having nurtured over XXX talents, and highly-proficient craftspeople during this time, we know the vital role these professionals play in protecting our historic buildings and landmarks, keeping them in good condition for future generations to enjoy.  

However, the increasing labour drain and a weak pipeline of future prospects are threatening to unravel this rich tapestry of talent that has been established over centuries, if not millennia.  

At DBR, we feel this is a serious, but completely avoidable, situation, caused by a lack of knowledge and zeal at an institutional and educational level. We want to motivate and inspire this country’s school and university leavers, showing them, their teachers, and parents, a career in conservation construction is a rewarding one with significant social impact.  

Not only that, we want to champion current practitioners, at every level, demonstrating how they are the protectors and guardians of our built history.  

It’s from this ambition that we have developed the Year of the Master Craftsperson, a new awareness-raising campaign, running over 2023/2024, celebrating those currently working in the heritage construction sector and encouraging others into it, regardless of background, circumstances, race, religion or gender. 

Crucially, The Year of the Master Craftsperson is about how we can quickly establish a home-grown workforce to guarantee the national legacy of traditional skills, and conserve the UK’s historic fabric, through the sharing of ideas across the construction sector, educators, and policymakers.  

Year of the Master Craftsperson Activities 

At its heart, The Year of the Master Craftsperson will act as a forum for discussion, to address the recruitment challenges the conservation construction sector faces, and how we collectively tackle them.  

Through a mix of engaging content, interviews, and engagement with educational institutions, politicians, current practitioners, and young people entering the profession, we will paint a rich and diverse picture of everything a career in conservation construction has to offer.  

A central aim is to bring our peers together, joining us in one voice to raise national awareness of this campaign which will help futureproof the professions we all care so passionately about.  

Across the year, you can expect a host of activities, from industry insights to proprietary research and dedicated events, bringing the Year of the Master Craftsperson to life.  

The QEST/DBR scholarship  

The Year of the Master Craftsperson kicks off with the opening of applications for an exciting new bursary, offered by DBR in partnership with the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST).  

Forming a three-year partnership between the two organisations, this exciting opportunity will see DBR provide funding for an individual to further their craft skills in the preservation of the UK’s built heritage. 

The scholarship programme is open to anyone looking to enhance their craft skills in built heritage. The successful candidate will receive a substantial bursary funded by DBR, which will go towards specialist training in their chosen field, from traditional college courses to vocational one-on-one training with a master craftsperson, or a bespoke programme of short courses. 

The scholarship is open to those aged 18 or above at the time of application, able to demonstrate a high level of skill, a strong body of work, and experience within their chosen field.  

Applications for the QEST/DBR Scholarship are now open until 14th August 2023, for an award in November 2023, judged by a panel of QEST experts. 

News and Announcements:

To keep up with everything we’re doing to support the Year of the Master Craftsperson campaign, check out our news channel, your portal for key information, dates, and campaign-related articles


Our Supporters:

Since our launch, the campaign has been met with enthusiasm from all quarters of the construction industry, and we’re proud to already have the support and endorsement of some of the leading players in the sector, including:


Getting started as a conservation constructor:

We’re keen to support anyone looking to enter into a career in conservation construction. We understand that, with so many avenues to explore, it can be difficult to identify where to start.

To make the process easier, we’ve put together a best practice guide to take your first steps along the craftsperson career path.

Have you got a project that you would like to discuss with a professional member of our team?

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